BAKU Nov 17 Police in Azerbaijan arrested
around 30 opposition activists who tried to stage a protest in
the capital Baku on Saturday to demand the president's
resignation and dissolution of parliament.
Police officers in helmets and wielding truncheons pushed
some of the demonstrators on to city buses.
Azerbaijan's weak opposition has been trying to drum up
support by staging regular protests since a series of bigger
demonstrations in Baku last year which were inspired by the Arab
Each protest has been swiftly broken up by security forces.
Around 100 people, called to join Saturday's protest via
Facebook, took to the streets, shouting "Dissolve the
parliament!" and "The president should resign". About 30 of them
were arrested, witnesses said.
Some journalists at the scene were beaten by police when
they tried to take photographs of the arrests.
"Some policemen beat me, although they knew and saw that I
was a journalist," Faraim Ibragimogly, a correspondent for the
opposition Yeni Musavat newspaper, told Reuters. He was wearing
a blue flak jacket with the word "Press" on it.
Western governments and human rights groups accuse President
Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded his father in 2003, of rigging
elections and of clamping down on dissent.
The government insists that the oil-rich nation enjoys full
freedom of speech and has a vibrant opposition press.
Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic on the Caspian Sea, is
an important energy supplier to Europe and a transit route for
U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Under pressure from the West, the government released
several opposition bloggers and reporters earlier this year, but
dozens of activists and journalists are still in jail.
(Reporting by Lada Evgrashina; Writing by Margarita Antidze;
Editing by Rosalind Russell)